Maria would have had to skate a LP like the 99 worlds to have any chance to upset Lipinski. And even then I think it would be hard as she she had less jump content than Lipinski and even Kwan; eg no triple-triple, no 2nd triple lutz. Maybe she could have flipped the ordinals of Kwan and Lipinski and given Kwan the win thouh.I am glad you bring this up.
I am glad to see Maria rightfully got 3rd in the SP despite being first to skate of 28. Her 3Lz-2Lp, 3Lp, 2A were impressive, considering Lipinski's 3Lz-2Lp, 3F, 2A and Kwan's 3Lz-2T, 3T, 2A. Probably the best skating of Maria's career. I actually think the technical elements were superior to Lipinski's because they had more height and distance. Had she skated later with the same quality, she probably would have beaten Lipinski and possibly Kwan. (Kwan really should have done the 3F a la US Nationals instead of the 3T.)
Unfortunately, Maria was severely out of sync with the music in the LP and all her jumps were not solid, which caused Otonal to fall flat. Skating last in the LP, she could have upset Lipinski.